Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Supporters of traditional marriage in Michigan yesterday turned in some 475,000 signatures — far more than the 317,000 needed — to put a state constitutional amendment before the voters in November.

The measure, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, is intended to block efforts to legalize same-sex “marriage” in the state.

“The people responded,” Marlene Elwell, president of Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, said yesterday. “They’re tired of politicians and activist judges making changes without having a voice. This gives them a voice.”

The Board of State Canvassers’ office in Lansing was kept open yesterday to receive the signatures. About 200 campaign volunteers helped deliver the boxes of petitions.

Some volunteers worked over the Independence Day holiday to gather signatures. Others, like Becky Fettig, county coordinator for Emmit County in northern Michigan, turned theirs in late last week.

“We were hoping to get at least 400,000 signatures as a cushion,” Mrs. Fettig said yesterday. Getting more than 475,000 “is great news,” she said.

Opponents of the marriage amendment said yesterday they would work to keep it off the ballot.

The amendment would end domestic-partner benefits in places such as the city of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, said Wendy Howell, spokeswoman for the Coalition for a Fair Michigan.

The text of the proposed amendment says: “To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as marriage or similar union for any purpose.”

Michigan’s achievement marks a four-for-four victory for those who want marriage amendments on the November ballot.

On June 18, Montana advocates turned in more than 70,000 signatures — far more than the 41,020 needed — for their marriage amendment.

On June 30, two days early, supporters in Oregon turned in 244,000 petition signatures, more than twice the 100,840 signatures needed.

On July 1, one day early, supporters in Arkansas turned in 200,693 petition signatures — more than twice the 80,650 they needed.

Pro-marriage activists in two more states — North Dakota and Ohio — are collecting signatures for amendments, with their deadlines falling in early August.

If all these campaigns succeed, 13 states will have amendments to define marriage on ballots this year, with seven states already having amendments passed by lawmakers.

Missouri’s amendment will be voted on first, in that state’s primary election Aug. 3. Louisiana voters are next, with a vote Sept. 18.

The other states — Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah — will vote on their amendments in the Nov. 2 general election.

Homosexual-rights groups have pledged to work to defeat all these amendments at the polls.

The amendments would “write discrimination” into a state constitution, say leaders of groups such as Basic Rights Oregon, Triangle Foundation in Michigan and Montanans for Families and Fairness.

The Oregon amendment signatures are the most filed with the state ever for a single ballot measure, an election official told reporters.

Support for the Oregon amendment came in response to Multnomah County officials who issued 3,022 “marriage” licenses to homosexual couples in the spring. Registration of those licenses is on appeal, pending a lawsuit.

The petitioners also have been galvanized by the Goodridge court decision in Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex “marriage” in that state as of May 17.

It took about 3,000 volunteers 93 days to collect the signatures, Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee, said at a press conference at the state Capitol on Thursday.

“The people of Arkansas have spoken,” he said. “They would rather define marriage at the ballot box this November than have some judge or court do it for them.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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